Can I go to Small Claims Court to pay less than what I owe a contractor in California?

Asked almost 2 years ago - San Diego, CA

I terminated a bath remodel contract after the licensed GC made several costly mistakes. The last was our discovery of the shower plumbing not done to CA code. We went from a bath/shower to a shower stall, which requires a drain move. We've paid him 3/4 of the contract, but now have to hire someone to finish the remodel and redo the shower plumbing. We also discovered he did not pull permits for any of the work. We offered to pay the remaining amount owed after the remodel is done by someone else, and plumbing fixed. He refused. He has sent a Cert. letter with a Mechanic's Lien notice, a new invoice for more monies he feels we owe him, and a promise to take us to small claims court. I have filed a complaint with the CSLB regarding all his mistakes but have not heard back yet.

Attorney answers (4)

  1. Shaun K. Boss

    Contributor Level 14


    Lawyers agree


    Best Answer
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    Answered . You should obtain estimates of the cost to complete the work correctly. If he sues in Small Claims Court, you should file a counter claim for the amount of the estimates. You might want to send him a lettter enclosing the estimates and demanding that he pay the amount of the difference between the balance owed on the contract and the cost of properly completing the work.

    If he files a lien, he must file suit in Superior Court (not Small Claims Court) to foreclose the lien within 90 days of its recording, or the lien becomes void. You may then petition the Court to remove the lien and recover your reasonable attorneys fees and costs. Good luck!

    This answer does not constitue legal advice, nor does it creat an attorney/client relationship. If you are... more
  2. Adam Jay Jaffe


    Contributor Level 15


    Lawyers agree


    Answered . If he sues you, be prepared to sue him back. You have consequential damages, not to mention an illegally built bathroom as permits were not pulled.

    This is a pretty clear-cut case involving a building contractor. In having litigated about 10 building contractor cases in Small Claims, rest easy knowing that in 9 of the 10, the homeowner won, regardless of any attorney input. These cases were in Santa Barbara, LA, Ventura, and Kern Counties.

    Short version is that building contractors can mess up easily. The last case I was involved in, the contractor violated 46 laws. Hard to win under these circumstances.

    If you have further questions, be sure to speak with a lawyer that knows about Small Claims.

    -Adam Jaffe Law Office of Adam Jay Jaffe PO Box 2437 Camarillo, CA 93011-2437 (805) 504-2223 www.... more
  3. Chi Leung Ip

    Contributor Level 13


    Lawyers agree

    Answered . Follow the steps: 1. fire the general contractor per terms of the contract; 2. document the site condition left behind and asses the cost for completion and the cost for the repair of defective work, if any; 3. send a demand letter to both the general contractor and his surety bond ($12,500); 4. file for small claim when contractor fails to reply your demand to your satisfaction; 5. name the surety bond as your defendant in addition to the contractor. Edward C. Ip

    No attorney / client relationship established. The answr is for discussion and general information only. The... more
  4. Arthur Henry Skola

    Contributor Level 9


    Lawyers agree


    Answered . I agree with what my colleagues have said. I am posting here because it appears you also posted a question about a "Labor Only" contract. I had guessed the contractor was not licensed, but in this question you say he was. So in answer to your question about what a Labor Only contract is is pretty simple. It means the contractor is not responsible for furnishing any of the materials to complete the work.

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